Libyan authorities demand Maltese counterpart to halt smuggling of fuel

Sadiq al-Sour. Reuters file photo

Malta Today – Libya is calling for more collaboration from the Maltese authorities to stop the “smuggling of Libyan fuels by Maltese mafia”, which according to Attorney General Sadiq Al-Sour is happening every day.

Announcing a wide-ranging probe to stop the rampant smuggling of refined fuel products, particularly petrol and diesel, from Libyan ports, the office of the Libyan Attorney General said it had issued arrest warrants against a number of executives in the Libyan oil industry suspected of collaborating in fuel smuggling.

However, the Attorney General pointed the finger at Malta, saying it was a known secret Maltese businessmen were heavily involved in the smuggling. “Maltese and Italian mafias are sending oil vessels on a daily basis to receive the fuel smuggled from Libya. We arrested some of those smugglers, and they were from Italy, Malta and the Ukraine,” he said.

Asked yesterday on whether any Maltese were recently arrested by Libyan authorities for fuel smuggling, Foreign Minister George Vella said that he did not know and referred this newspaper to the police.

Pressed to state whether the ongoing accusations that Malta was implicated in rampant fuel smuggling were being taken seriously by the Maltese authorities, Dr Vella only said: “Whenever we have reports we always pass the information to the police. That’s all we can do.”

Questions sent to the police had not been answered by the time of writing.

Reports of fuel smuggling from Libya with a Maltese connection have been making the rounds for years, at least since the collapse of the Gaddafi regime.

Apart from regular mentions in the international press of Maltese companies and individuals allegedly involved in this smuggling, detailed reports have also been published by the United Nations mentioning Maltese companies and vessels by name involved in the transfer of tons of smuggled fuel from Libya to Malta. The reports include the tracking of these ships and also dates when ship-to-ship transfers on the high seas took place.

Despite this, the Maltese authorities have not taken any action against those involved in this alleged multimillion-euro ‘business’.
According to the UN information, ships smuggling fuel sail south from Malta to between 40 and 60 nautical miles off the coast of Libya, where they turn off their automated tracking systems.

After they are loaded, mostly through fishing boats carrying the illegal fuel, the vessels return to Malta. The reports said that illegal fuel was also transferred to other vessels on Hurd’s bank, just out of Maltese territorial waters.

According to the Libyan Attorney General, the latest investigations on smuggling now concentrate on criminal gangs in Malta, Italy, Greece and Cyprus. Mr Al-Sour said that his new probe was being held in collaboration with the Chairman of the National Oil Corporation (NOC), Mustafa Sanalla, who has called for legal action against smugglers.

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